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2016-02-19 Three and a half hours of coaching!

Last month we had 36 TNKR refugees and 56 tutors active in our humble project, based on tutor reports. It is easy to forget how much time volunteers give for tutors and coaching. We had an average of slightly more than 4 reports per month. With the speech contest being added, we are now averaging more than 5 reports being submitted per day.

This morning and afternoon, tutor/coach Laura Nguyen had a tutoring and coaching session that lasted 3 and a half hours. I left around 10:30 a.m. to join a discussion group, when I returned at 1:30, they were still studying together, then finally wrapped up around 2 pm.

Laura is a +1 volunteer. In addition to tutoring and coaching, she is recruiting friends to join, informing others, and even raising money for TNKR.

Yes, they are smiling in the photo… that’s after going through the 7 stages of grief, resisting, complaining, then finally resigning themselves to the reality. 🙂

I skipped out of the office to join an English language discussion group. They asked why I wanted to join, I said, “I don’t want to lose my English.”

I’ve had to impose a curfew on TNKR Assistant Academic Adviser Youngmin Kwon. A few nights ago, we were both working at the office until 3 a.m. From now, he is barred from working at TNKR past 10 pm. Now he is also volunteering on weekends, so I now must consider if he will be banned from volunteering on weekends. He has also set up a fundraiser for TNKR. http://give.teachnorthkoreanrefugees.org/en/fundraisers/Stand-with-North-Korean-refugees

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2017-02-17 Too busy to blog

I am always amazed when people say that I’m great at Facebook. I joined in 2012 and still feel like a newbie, one of those befuddled old people driving youngsters to Instagram. I only remember to check Facebook when I want to post about TNKR’s latest activities. The reason I didn’t join Facebook in the past: I am too busy living life to be hanging out on Facebook talking about it!

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2017-02-15 Speech contest planning meeting

We had a preliminary planning meeting getting ready for the 5th TNKR English speech contest. We still have some roles that we need filled.

RSVP for the contest here, directions are here

Sign up to help out (contact Casey Lartigue to confirm your participation 070-4006-0942).

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2017-02-14 North Korea is still breaking hearts

North Korea has been breaking hearts and families for decades. The Hwang Won family has been waiting since 1969 for him to be returned from North Korea. He had the misfortune to be one of the 50 people on Korean Air flight YS-11 on December 11, 1969. After international protests, 39 of the 50 passengers were returned to South Korea on Valentine’s Day 1970, but 11 of the people, including Hwang Won, were not allowed to return and have not been able to contact their families.

His son, Hwang Cheol who was 2 years old when his father was kidnapped to North Korea, has been campaigning to have his father and the others returned. Mr. Hwang held a press conference in the morning then an event at the TNKR office to raise awareness about this case. You can’t change the world, but you can let Mr. Hwang know that you support his effort in having his father returned.

Media coverage

Daily NK, Yonhap News, Seoul Kyunjeh, Intiz.net, Hankyoreh, MBN, Read more


2017-02-14 Dave Fry is TNKR’s Valentine today

New TNKR volunteer Dave Fry donated his loose change from the last 6 months to TNKR! Instead of transferring money from bank account to bank account, he transferred from his Piggy Bank to TNKR’s Donation Jar.

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2017-02-12 Eunkoo at the Bat!

For Eunkoo Lee’s birthday, I bought her a baseball glove, bat, and two baseballs. Before you judge me, listen up!

Before TNKR interrupted Eunkoo’s life in 2013, she spent her weekends sleeping and during baseball season following the scores. It took me some time to realize that she was really checking baseball scores and actually follows it. I mentioned some American baseball players one day, she knew their names.

So imagine my surprise when she said that she had never played baseball. Never picked up a baseball, never held a bat, never put on a glove. That’s like a golfing fanatic never trying golf or a swimming fan who had never jumped in a pool. So for her birthday last Friday I bought her some baseball items.

From the way she is holding the bat, clearly she needs some coaching.

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2017-02-12 Speech at camp (Seongdo)

I’m in Seongdo this afternoon giving a speech at a leadership camp.

The teacher in charge had them do research about me in advance, so the students were already familiar with TNKR! About 30 middle school students know TNKR.

The best question: What’s my ultimate goal with TNKR?

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2017-02-09 Dave Fry: “Use me”

TNKR has a new volunteer in the office. Dave Fry joined TNKR officially today, helping out at the office and having his first tutoring session. It was an incredible first day, I wonder if we will survive the second one!

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2017-02-09 Good luck, Joseph!

Before I co-founded TNKR, I already had several North Korean refugees and had already been volunteering for the Mulmangcho School. One of the first NK refugees I met was Joseph.

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2017-02-09 Future Award Winner?

I found out yesterday that I have a great chance to win an award given by a South Korean foundation. There are only two candidates left in the competition–I’m one of them.  It would not be the first time I have won an award. It would be special because this organization has nothing to do with NK refugees issues, but they think what I am doing is outstanding.  They are telling the final two nominees that no matter who wins that this will be the start of a relationship, that they hope to provide some financial support for our efforts and that they will try to highlight us.

It is an honor, but still, I’d prefer to win. If I win, I will do a touchdown dance in the other guy’s face. I will have a box of Kleenex ready for him. Then encourage him to get ready to try again next year. Clearly, I won’t be a graceful winner, but if I lose, yes, I will say that it was an honor to be nominated, and I will try not to tackle the other guy if he does a touchdown dance in my face.

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